SYNOPSIS: Insights Secure Q&A April 04, 2016
This is a new feature. As feedback from our side on your answers is missing, we thought of providing detailed synopsis of important Secure questions on daily basis so that you could revise our synopsis and compare it with your answers. We intend to post synopsis of Secure questions every next day of posting questions on website.
You must write answers on your own and compare them with these synopses. If you depend on these synopses blindly, be sure of facing disaster in Mains. Until and unless you practice answer writing on your own, you will not improve in speed, content and writing skills. Keep separate notebooks for all GS papers and write your answers in them regularly. Now and then keep posting your answer on website too (Optional). Some people have the tendency of copying content from others answers and pasting them in a document for each and every question. This might help in revision, but if you do not write on your own, you can’t write a good answer in real exam. This is our experience at offline classes. We have seen many students who think they were regularly following Secure, yet fail to clear Mains. So, never give up writing.
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General Studies – 1;
1) What is the meaning of secularism as understood and practised in India? Do you think government’s power to administer and manage religious and charitable endowments is antagonistic to India’s secular ideals? Critically comment. (200 Words)
- In Indian secularism the state can intervene in religious affairs. Though the state is not strictly separate from religion, it does maintain a principled distance vis a vis religion. Any interference in religion by the state has to be based on the ideals laid out in the constitution.
- It is against the western notion of complete non interventionist approach towards religion. Because in India religion tended to pervade society in a manner that often had serious implications for one’s basic civil rights.
- Secular state in india can achieve the following objectives:
- that one religious community does not dominate other
- that some members do not dominate other memebers of the same religion
- state does not enforce a particular religion nor take away religious freedom of individuals.
- In the case of tamilnadu government taking over sabanayagar temple supreme court ruled that even if the temple is taken over for remedying an evil ,once it is remedied it has to be handed over to the person concerned as Continuation thereafter would tantamount to usurpation of their proprietary rights or violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution in favour of the persons deprived. IThis process sits uneasily with both the guarantee of religious freedom and secularism.
- The hindu religions and charitable endowment act allows the state governments to take over temples and control their vast properties and assets however the government has no legal authority to take over the management of non hindu place of worship.
- Different laws for hindus ,muslims and christians:-people of different religions are covered by different laws.While hindus ,Sikhs and Buddhists are covered by the hindu code bills ,muslims are covered by muslim personal laws and christian personal laws.
- minority schools receive money from the government but are not obligated to comply with the regulations of right to education act.
- haj pilgrimage incurs huge cost on exchequer spending 836 crore on it in 2012.Despite supremecourt suggesting government to phase this off within 10 years the government still spends in abundance but critics argue that other religious pilgrimages like amarnath yatra etc are not extended the same facility.
- So all these question the real intentions of indian secularism and secular state.
- experts say that singling out of hindu endowments neither violates constitution nor the guarantee of neutral form of secularism.state intervention can be justified on the grounds of promoting freedom,equality or any other value integral to secularism.
- this is necessary to bring social welfare and reform to correct a history of historical inequalities.
- state argues that their intervention in hindu endowments and trusts is not aimed at reforming religion out of existence but rather at ensuring that the administration of the endowment stays true to both the will and the intent of the grantor and the country’s secular ideals.
- through a strategy on non interference-in order to respect the sentiments of all religions and not interfere with religious practices,the state makes certain exceptions for particular religious communities.Ex:sikhs need not wear the helmet as indian state recognises wearing turban as an important religious practice in sikhism.
Topic: Population and associated issues
2) Increase in life expectancy all over the world, which is a desirable outcome of economic and social progress, is creating new challenges. The problem of ageing populations has become a matter of great concern in rich countries, and now in China too. Can societies use aged people as resources? In the context of India and the world, discuss. (200 Words)
- Increase in the dependency ratio: If the retirement age remains fixed, and the life expectancy increases, there will be relatively more people claiming pension benefits and less people working and paying income taxes. The fear is that it will require high tax rates on the current, shrinking workforce.
- Increased government spending on healthcare and pensions. Also, those in retirement tend to pay lower income taxes because they are not working. This combination of higher spending commitments and lower tax revenue is a source of concern for Western governments – especially those with existing debt issues and unfunded pension schemes.
- Shortage of workers: An ageing population could lead to a shortage of workers and hence push up wages causing wage inflation. Alternatively, firms may have to respond by encouraging more people to enter the workforce, through offering flexible working practices.
- Changing sectors within the economy.:An increase in the numbers of retired people will create a bigger market for goods and services linked to older people (e.g. retirement homes)
- Higher savings for pensions may reduce capital investment. If society is putting a higher % of income into pension funds, it could reduce the amount of savings available for more productive investment, leading to lower rates of economic growth.
- Because of ageing and increasing life expectancy western countries share in the global GDP is reducing in relative terms.
- While demographic changes are incremental, the cumulative change in demographic structure has started to impinge on the fiscal capacity of many developed economies, particularly in Europe – an increase in share of retirees, existing social compacts in many developed countries have come under strain as their capacity to service public debt has diminished and private debt has also risen.
- especially during economic crisis they get affected even more as unemployment rises and they dont have the necessary skill and population to work.
- Without international migration, the working-age population (persons in age group 20-64 years, as per UN classification) in the developed countries would decline by 77 million or about 11 per cent – which could increase the dependence of the developed countries on international migrants or on outsourcing of work.
- in developing countries like India the needs of increasing numbers of elderly persons are to be provided for when the demands of India’s youthful population are not yet creates an economic challenge.
- A rise in age-related chronic illness:- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are expected to almost double every 20 years, as life expectancy increases.
- Special challenges for less developed nations: Poorer countries will carry the double burden of caring for older people with chronic diseases, as well as dealing with continued high rates of infectious diseases.
- Increasing need for specialized health care workers: With millions more older people needing health care, specialized doctors, like geriatricians, will be necessary to help seniors worldwide. By 2030, it is estimated that 36,000 geriatricians will be needed in the United States alone
- Increasing need for long-term care: The number of sick and frail elderly needing affordable nursing homes or assisted living centers will likely increase.
- Health care costs increase:As older people stop working and theirhealth care needs increase,they might be pushed to poverty without government support. In the United States, another baby boomer turns 60 every eight seconds.
- As generally live longer than men most of them will end up being widows and might have acquired less education with fewer years at work and therefore more restricted access to social security.
- Increased longevity may also boost labor supply and saving rates. In addition, a decline in fertility increases female labor supply (Bailey, 2006) and the resources available to invest in children’s health and education
- It is likely that older communities will become more law abiding, since older people are less inclined to commit crimes.
- community benefits:
- Older people tend to play a role in supporting and maintaining informal social networks, which in turn bind communities and families together and can make a substantial contribution to improving social conditions.
- In Vietnam, Old People’s Associations (OPAs) .government uses them to reach the communities for popularising the government programmes.A great benefit of these ‘inter-generational self-help groups’ (as the OPAs are called) is the social capital they accumulate and the cohesion they enable within communities.
- women in self-help groups are improving the quality of lives of people in many countries.especially SEWA (the self-employed women’s association) in India
- Re-integration of the elderly into communities may save humanity from mindlessly changing into a technology-driven ‘Industry 4.0’ which futurists are projecting: an economy of robots producing things for each other.
- Most middle-aged and older adults will have living parents, and more children will know grandparents — even great-grandparents.
- Healthy elderly citizens can share their wealth of knowledge with younger generations, help with child care, and volunteer or hold jobs in their communities.
- OECD warned that the world was ageing at an unprecedented rate and that this could help slow global annual economic growth from an average of 3.6% this decade to about 2.4% from 2050 to 2060
- By 2030, children will be 23.9% and the elderly will increase to 12.5%, i.e. 190 million people in india.
- By 2010-15, life expectancy in India had almost caught up with the global average: 67.5 years in India, compared with 70.5 years globally.
- In 2045 the number of people 60 or older will be higher than the number of children worldwide for the first time in history.
General Studies – 2
Topic:Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
- New contractual regime for energy exploration is in line with the principle of “minimum government and maximum governance” as the revenue-sharing formula may help prevent future disputes over pricing and cost recovery of the kind the government has been embroiled in with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
- It put in place a transparent single licence and policy framework for oil, gas and coal-bed methane exploration in the country which is beneficial for producers.
- The government also freed gas pricing from the new blocks and existing discoveries which are yet to commence production but with an imposition of a price cap linked to the opportunity cost of imported fuels.
- simplifies the exploration process for future auctions of blocks, the new pricing formula for difficult-to-extract gas will benefit companies such as Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd, RIL and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation that have deep sea discoveries in already licensed blocks which are yet to be brought into production
- The decision to deregulate gas prices could unlock production from new developments in deep, ultra-deep water and high-pressure, high-temperature areas.
- It will also lead to the development of a competitive gas market in the country.the decision paves the way for a level-playing field between domestic and imported gas.
- “Open acreage” is also promised, so that companies can bid to explore certain blocks and then the hydrocarbons regulator will subsequently examine their geological findings.This will improve ease of doing business in India.
- With competitive gas market consumers will get gas at an affordable price as price hikes cannot be made drastic.
- Gas is linked to inflation so with indigenous production consumers are not much affected by the market fluctuations.
- This policy along with With deregulation of diesel prices and making direct cash transfer of LPG subsidy possible by linking with aadhar number to the bank account has benefitted consumers immensely.this saved 10000 crore which can be used for social welfare and development.
- Consumer Consumption : Increase in the gas prices, which are hitherto capped artificially low, would affect consumer expenditure adversely resulting in low domestic demand
- Since royalty rates over land is uniform, regions like NE may be ignored by companies
- Fertiliser Industry : Rise in prices of gas would affect the Fertiliser industry disproportionately as gas is the major raw material used in th Industry (almost 60%).
- this regime will be applicable only when previous legal proceedings are settled and withdrawn as it may lead to delays of the projects or in attempt to settle the scores grave injustices may be committed. However,the move is justified on the grounds of making the process more feasible.
- more risk for investors: as cost recovery will take longer and explorers will require higher capex
- Since the government would have to be paid royalty irrespective of costs, oil companies may incur heavy losses if gas prices crash due to innovations in renewable energy
- Since companies would be allowed to bid at their convenience instead of on an annual basis competition may be lowered
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
4) “A sophisticated engagement with the US is in India’s interests. But there is reason to worry that the escalating nature of our defence agreements with the US will put us on a slippery slope where we may not be able to manage our own geopolitical positioning in the world’s major conflicts.” Critically analyse. (200 Words)
- Allowing US to provide india with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that indian and US higher commanders,aircrafts and ships can communicate with each other through secure networks in peace and war.
- allows interoperability of Indian and US equipment.
- boeing p-8I multi mission maritime aircraft would have benefitted with the advanced communications equipment that would have been available with the signing of COSMOA.
- facilitates mundane reciprocal uses of each other’s facilities but does not, in any way, commit India to provide logistical or base support.
- However India has provided logistic assistance to US earlier in a case by case basis during operation enduring freedom,refueling of american aircraft in mumbai,escorting US vessels in malacca strait etc
- the two sides can access supplies,spare parts and services from each other’s land facilities,air bases and ports which can be reimbursed
- it can increase the reach of indian navy to the asia pacific region where it has no base facilities and even indian ocean
- would provide India with topographical and aeronautical date and products which will aid navigation and targeting.
- pushes India to unwittingly provide support to the US in conflicts.
- Because of the situation in the middle east where large numbe rof indians work if the US were to militarily get involved there and india was bound to provilogistics support to the US military it would jeopardize the lives of indians there.
- operational deployment in asia pacific regions so there is no need for LSA as of now.
- enable the US to listen in on indian conversations in operations where the US may be neutral or adversial such as contingencies relating to pakistan.
- US wants to position India in its plans for China. But India’s interests have always been to do business with both countries.But an open declaration of a political and defence alignment with the US forecloses those options.
- With the next leadership in US either republican or democratic both focus on more interventionist foreign policy that might make india uncomfortable because more intricate operational embrace with the US will make keeping that distance harder.
- Armed forces have concerns about sharing information about their systems with US.
- Relations with Russia might be strained.US is the largest military supplier to India overtaking russia even though India has to depend on Russian equipment at least a decade more.
- America’s relationship with pakistan is a great concern to India the recent sale of F-16s to pakistan makes it even more suspicious.
- other agreements like end use monitoring agreement and enhanced end use monitoring agreement still remain problematic because india cannot always permit the US to access locations where equipment or weapon systems are located.
- Indian policy of non alignment is going to take a hit with the signing of all these agreements as india will be part of military alliances.
- It is a bit disquieting that these shifts are taking place without much public debate.
- Indias’s interests do not necessarily converge with the US. On development issues, from trade to intellectual property to immigration, these fissures are likely to remain.
- India already agrees to these “in principle” but wants them to be modified india specific .
- India needs a proper national security strategy to determine what kind of relationship it wants with the US and considering the factors whether US is going to support India when it needs.
- india should not compromise the national interest and can learn from the experiences of US allies in dealing the relationship with US.
Topic: Powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
5) Recently, Prime Minister of India suggested that elections to the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and local bodies should be held simultaneously. Is such an exercise feasible? Discuss the issues involved. (200 Words)
- frequent elections bring to a standstill normal functioning of the government and life of the citizens and bring a heavy recurring costs.
- governance gap leads to policy paralysis and governance deficit:
- During two and half months of lok sabha elections-government cannot announce any new schemes,make any new appointments, transfers or postings without EC approval.
- Ministers get busy in the election campaign, the district administration machinery gets totally focused on elections.
- political parties and its workers have been wasting too much time and money in electioneering. if implemented, would free up a lot of time and resources for political and social workers to bring change at the grassroots level.
- to avoid the costs of the election as they have gone up enormously. It has two components — the cost of management to the EC/ government and the cost to candidates and political parties. Though there are no exact estimates, one guess estimate puts it at Rs 4,500 crore..
- aggravation of vices like communalism, casteism, corruption (vote-buying and fund-raising) and crony capitalism. If the country is perpetually in election mode, there is no respite from these evils.
- The bigger problem is the havoc played by the money power of political parties and contestants. Though the law prescribes a ceiling on the expenditure of candidates, the fact is that it is violated with impunity
- enhances accountability as there is a tendency by the elected representatives to forget voters after the elections for five years and frequent elections keeps them on their toes.
- Infringement of the people’s right to choose their representatives for the sake of saving money or for administrative convenience cannot pass judicial muster.
- local and national issues do not get mixed up to distort priorities.
- elections give a boost to the economy at the grassroots level, creating work opportunities for lakhs of people.
- there are some environmental benefits also that flow out of the rigorous enforcement of public discipline like non-defacement of private and public property, noise and air pollution, ban on plastics, etc.
- EC needs five times the central armed police force that is currently provided .Instead of 700-800 companies ,it needs 3500 companies to make the idea feasible.
- if loksabha is dissolved then all state governments need to be dissolved too is the question.For example when the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 13-day government fell in 1996, should all the State Assemblies have been dissolved at that time? Would it have been valid to disturb the mandate of those governments
- Raising a few battalions of various paramilitary forces will also give relief to the extremely stretched and stressed forces, provide employment and contribute to better enforcement in troubled areas.
- cut the role of money power in elections:
- Putting a cap on political party expenditure and state-funding of political parties with a simultaneous ban on all private, especially corporate, funds.
- Former Election commissioner suggestions:
- Instead of getting into constitutional matters all the concerned problems mentioned by the PM can be done by electoral reforms.
- The EC gives an informally held notice to political parties in states, of around 21 days before the actual poll dates before announcing it. This can be reduced to seven days and the period that the model code of conduct is in place becomes shorter
- 79th report of the standing committee on law and justice recommendations:
- the committee suggests a two-phase poll, with States divided into two groups, one for which elections would be in the middle of the current Lok Sabha (16 States) and another where elections will be held at the end of the current Lok Sabha (19 States).
- By this process, at least half the States in India will have polls alongside Lok Sabha polls, and the rest in the middle of that term.
Topic: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein
6) “Effectively, the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) had sowed the seeds of cooperative federalism as states have been accorded unprecedented fiscal freedom.” Do you agree? In the light of recent budgets introduced by many state governments, comment on the statement. (200 Words)
- The fourteenth finance commission championed the idea that one size cannot fit all; particularly relevant in such a large and diverse country like India.
- FFC abandoned the idea of tied aid in the form of centrally sponsored programmes and grants and instead trusted states to manage their own fiscal future.
- Not only did the states get the freedom to prioritize spending, the new formula sharply increased the share from 32% to 42% of net Union tax receipts of fiscal resources accruing to states.
- It further allowed states committing to greater fiscal discipline greater leeway to borrow from the market to fund their development priorities.
- For the first time, public expenditure is now decisively in the jurisdiction of states.
- Consequently, states are now greater stakeholders and the implementation of the single goods and services tax will only bind this relationship further.
- based on the local factors the states are giving impetus to the sectors
- Bihar has focused its resource allocation on the sectors of health, energy and panchayats
- In the case of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, it is the social sector and energy.
- Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana :
- drew up a contract between the Union government and volunteering state governments wherein the discom debt was transferred to the state government who, in turn, would float bonds to fund it.this provides an unprecedented fiscal room to states.
- Further, the discoms were required to adopt transparent pricing rules and also overhaul the creaking power infrastructure in their state—with the end objective of providing 24×7 power.
- In Recent central budget the allocations for centrally sponsered programmes have been given impetus giving superiority to political expediency over cooperative federalism.
- Rather than changing the rates in mobilising additional resources a notable feature is the resort to levying cesses and surcharges as is seen from the revised estimates,the share of the states in gross tax revenue shrunk to 34.6% from 36.2% in the budget estimate.
- even in 2016-17 with additional half a percent surcharge in service tax practice of mopping up resources for the exclusive appropriation by union government has continued.this will deny the states their share in additional revenues mobilised and to that extent negate the award of fourteenth finance commission. reduce the states revenue
- union approach to CSS-
- proposed to rationalise CSS by reducing their number from 65 to 28
- close observation shows that most of the schemes have been retained as sub schemes with the categorisation as “core of the core”,”core” and “optional schemes”
- states contribution of 30%,40%,50% is needed for the three categories which will lead to loss of around 85000 crores for the states to avail these schemes.
General Studies – 3
Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
7) “The collapse of an under-construction flyover in the highly congested Burra Bazar area of Kolkata, killing 27 people, has highlighted the hurdles in the way of building new infrastructure capacity not just in West Bengal but in all of India.” Discuss these hurdles and suggest measures to overcome them. (200 Words)
- absence of long term financing instruments is a major impediment leading to stalling of projects and shortage of good developers.
- the principle source of debt funding available to all infrastructure projects is available only for a tenor of 10-15 years as against the concession tenure,typically in the range of 20-30 years.
- unavailability of long term patient capital poses a significant challenge for project developers having long term contracts with inherently long gestation period.
- Domestic banks also face the challenge in extending long term credit as many of them have hot exposure limits for the sector. Finanial stability report in 2015 shows that 30 % of total stressed assets are from infrastructure.
- Absence of deeep corporate bond market in india and muted participation by pension funds have inhibited credit avilability for infrastructure projects
- projects are completed without advanced information to the testing and safety clearance authorities.
- no safety mechanisms within the area of infrsstructure projects as seein the vivekananda flyover collapse in kolkata road safety measures were not taken because of which 27 people were killed.
- lack of an independent regulator:especially in roads and railways the governing body operates in twin capacity-as an operator and regulator.this leads to conflict in functioning.
- lack of coordination among various agencies implementing the projects-mumbai monorail system
- way projects are awarded:role of local political operatives who are be awarded contracts or simply accommodated in rent seeking without ensuring adherence to norms and standards
- functioning of bureaucracy with no fast track decisions leads to overrun costs.
- no proper planning and regulation,blame game during the tragic incidents
- Substandard construction materials are used which lead to cracks within some time.
- No continuance in construction-on-off work would wear the structure faster.
- transparency in bidding of contracts:Hyderabad based IVRCL which was constructing the flyover was already under the watch list of railways.
- lead to excessive delay in projects especially when local resistance is strong.
- delay in getting permission from local authorities like civic and police authorities.
- lack of consultations with stakeholders and bad contract management.
- According to economics affairs database over the past 3 years the private sector participation through PPP has significantly slowed down
- no proper management post construction as well-inefficient management
- Urban mass transit authority
- act as a single nodal agency for planning and coordination of project related works
- .to address the issues of coordination among agencies need to be implemented soon.
- setting up of independent regulator like SEBI with objective of protecting the investor from various risks and attracting private investments.
- an authority which would take care of sovereign obstacles will be able to remove the obstacles for public projects and monitor the development of the project.
- Startups need to be encouraged in solving the myriad civic and infrastructure problems of India’s cities and in the bargain attracting attentions from investors like socialcops to structure data in civil and policing applications
- projects like smart cities and AMRUT are meant to address the policy and planning vaccum.
- odd even policy which aim at handling congestion in transport sectors must be complemented with boost in the public infrastructure.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions;
8) A photojournalist who happens to visit a site where communal forces are indiscriminately killing innocent women and children gets an opportunity to take pictures of the horrifying scenes. He keeps taking picture even after the mob leaves. He had an opportunity to help the victims, but his professional interests motivated him to take as many pictures as possible to tell the tragic story through photos to the world.
a) In your opinion, should such professionals be involved in providing immediate relief to victims or in taking photographs and reveal the story to the world? What would you do if you were the photojournalist in the above case? Justify.